Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Second Anniversary

Two years of marriage to my best friend has been...
Ridiculously Frustrating
Life Changing

And if I had to choose one thing to say about the past two years, then I would say that they have grown me. Not only have these two years brought me into two baby girls, a new home, and numerous paths patted out for the cause of Christ, but on a smaller scheme, these two years have brought me peace. Chris is in this marriage for the repeating triathlon that it is... 

Our theme song for just this past year isn't exactly a love song of promises, but honest and transparent. I have questioned  and been unwilling to take chances to better our marriage. But at the foundation is still a lasting love. 

Make a Mistake With Me

You over think things
You say what if we're not meant to be
Well you know what so what
Make a mistake with me

Nobody goes through this life and does
Everything perfectly
We're all gonna fail so you might as well
Make a mistake with me

Sometimes baby when we take
A chance that has this much at stake
We look back and in hindsight
What seemed wrong looks more like right

So I say worst case we'll be left with
Lots of good memories
This chance we have well it's worth that 
So make a mistake with me

I'm tellin' you the right thing to do
Is make a mistake
Make a mistake
Make a mistake with me

We had a talk last night about being the two in two million that are set on a path to Canaan. We can see it, we know the promises that are there, and we refuse to be left on the outskirts looking into our Promised Land. 

God did not set our path with smooth marble and equip us with fuzzy, comfortable socks to slide along it's polished surface. There are pot holes, hills, muddy spots, places I need to be carried over, and other spots where encouragement will need to be given. 

To be honest, the hardest part about our marriage has been breaking generational sin and the easiest  part has been to say, "Yes, Lord!" Yes, we trust You. Yes, we want to live selflessly. Yes, every penny in our bank account is ultimately yours. Yes, we want Your will above our own. Yes, we believe that our children are meant to be used by you.

To answer my wonderful husband's question: "Do you want to sit at the head of the table next to me in 50 years, look down the rows of chairs and be proud of the enormous family that both you, I, and God shaped? Do you want to look at all the faces and see a family set apart, and a family that has helped shape their community and made an impact for God... The Guess (Tribe) will not be the same after my life with you is through." 

Yes, and yes! Two in two million...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

One Thousand Gifts

This morning when the girls woke up at the same time crying, both with runny noses, as I was still recovering from sickness I struggled with which ones needs to address first. When I checked the refrigerator for breakfast to find lack thereof (not because of a lack of finances but lack of timing to go to the store), I wanted to choose to ignore hunger pains. As I looked at my to do list and was angered by remembering that a renter had not paid for the month, I wanted to file an eviction quickly. When three phone calls in a row quizzed me on a task needed done by the end of the day, I wanted to un-volunteer my services. Definitely when the man at the door came knocking with a clipboard and serious face, I did not want to greet him in a friendly way while wearing my "Who's the better sister shirt", leftover mascara, and pajama pants. And lastly (as most often happens) when my husband texted me his support, faithfulness, and loving words I wanted to respond with "K" (and maybe did initially) before explaining what work I could see God doing in my heart for the day. 

I walked (while stomping) through the house with the grudges that I just knew were Satans plan against my joy- I gave thanks to God for the dirty pile of clothes meaning we were prepared for cold weather, surrendered my competence for His power over things expected of me, made a promise to put others first no matter the cost, and thanked Him for being the Great Physician for my family's health. 

Within a couple of hours I heard a baby breathing freely. Bacon that had reached an expired date was still fresh and cooked into tasty bacon sandwiches. Said renter phoned me to say her boys had been in the hospital with sickness; my Momma heart was broken. Phone calls quickly turned into blessings and relief as an aunt volunteered to pick up my son from school, a date for a close approaching event was rescheduled for six weeks later (a deadline I could work with!) A smile from the back porch to the man previously at the front door was returned- he was there to adjust our insurance coverage to cover the cost of renovations (thank you God for seeing a need I did not!). And lastly, but most importantly, the husband's response, "You are such a blessing, Danielle." 

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Psalms 95:1

What if God's grace hadn't shown in my life this morning- could I still give thanks? What if the sickness increased and there wasn't really any money for food? Could I still find thanksgiving? I would like to say, "Yes!" This morning, though, probably not. But God met me where I needed Him. He provided, healed, sent His love through friends and family, and spoke to me through His word. 

The best thing yet is that I know He's not done. The day is not halfway through, Satan still goes as the Prince of the Air, and man will ultimately fail me. But a time of prayer in my weakness will always be sufficient. 

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. Psalms 95:6 

This sharing with you is my worship. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Succession of Genders

"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit 
of the womb is his reward." Psalm 127:3 

I remember thinking about the gender of my first child. It was such an inconvenient time to be pregnant- 18 years young and fresh out of high school with a scholarship to the University of Georgia. I just knew I had to be having a boy. I talked to him before I even knew for sure... When the ultrasound tech told me that I was indeed pregnant with a very tiny boy, I just smiled, "Yes, I know..." But how did I know? I knew that there was no way that God would give me a daughter to raise when I had messed up so badly with my own life.  Goodness knows we did not need another Danielle thinking that she knew all about life. 

A boy would be tough, able to withstand the questions he would face in life about his unwed parents, young mom, and future half brothers/sisters. A boy would look up to his Momma, not resent her. I would not have to worry about making him the opposite of myself, but could help shape him into a young man. I mistakenly sought out a man to be this boy's father. I needed a partner, a helper, someone for him to look up to. A year and a half into this little boy's life, God found me- at my weakest moment. No longer did I wish to make up for my sin through making my boy into a strong soldier for Christ. 

I was living in the moments, enjoying God being the number one love of my life when Chris came back into my life. You see, if it had not been for my sin then Chris would have never had to walk out of my life. But, two and a half years later "that boy" whom I had not spoken to and could only think of with regret, took a place in my heart that I never thought (or really wanted) to be filled again. He loved Dallas, the little boy who needed a Daddy. Marriage came two years later, and more babies came at the same time. 

(The only request Dallas had of the wedding was for him 
to be dressed exactly like Daddy, not Mommy.)

To even be pregnant was amazing to me, but I found myself in that undeserving place again. A child is a miracle, a gift, an heritage. I was quickly pondering the gender of our new baby. All I could think is that "I did not want to be having a girl..." My reasoning this time was that I did not want Chris to love another girl- God had given me so much in him I really did not want to share him. Also, I once again believed that if I had a girl to raise I would constantly be pushing her against the grain of my own self as a young girl . We planned to have an ultrasound to find out the gender of mine and Chris' baby- "It's a girl!" I found myself extremely joyful in that moment... To see Chris turning towards me with tears in his eyes gave me all the courage I needed to raise this girl. He wanted her to be just like me- what a picture of Christ he is! This man, my husband, did not hold my past against me. He believed me to be an amazing woman and mother and in his own words, "Could not wait to have a little Danielle who thought she knew all about life." When Lillie-Mae was born, all my worries about being her mother were gone. She and I were going to take on the world- she would know Jesus, His love, and the greatness that was in her as a woman.

(Looks like her Daddy, acts like her Momma.) 

The Guess Tribe is once again adding a new member, Mindy Lynn Guess. Another girl to be just like Mommy. Dallas and Chris are surely outnumbered now. The succession of genders that have come forth from me has all been God's doing. He knew what I needed, and I am ashamed to say that I doubted or ever thought I knew what was best for me and my family. 

Mindy Lynn, we are ready for you, baby girl! Our hearts are ready to be filled with your love. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Restful Vacation

I had a great time away with my family this past week. We have been on turbo speed with renovating the new house, preparing our home for the move, (not even thinking about) packing, getting supplies for the new baby ready, serving in the church, and being intentional about quality time together as a family. 

           Someone was ready to go! 

Chris and I started our trip alone Saturday morning- minus babies, carseats, diapers, and our little Einstein with his questions. We shopped in Pigeon Forge for the kids winter clothes and Chris a birthday present. He ended up with Fossil sunglasses, boots and a leather belt from Bass, and two pairs of jeans. According to Chris if I wasn't pregnant, then I could have also bought for myself. But I'm pretty sure the shopping trip was an example of Momma puts her babies first;) We checked into the River Park Inn to relax before our dinner. I love staying at this hotel mainly for the homemade breakfast in bed of donuts and coffee. However, since we only needed a one bed room, we were on the creekside. It was peaceful to prop the balcony door open and hear the water. For dinner, we treated ourselves to the Peddler. It's a wonderful steakhouse off River Road. We had reservations for 9:00 (since we were alone and didn't have bedtimes or babysitters to worry about). When we arrived we requested a table overlooking the river. It was supposed to be an extra 30 minutes but we ended up being seated at 8:45- I must have looked extra hungry and pregnant!

 This restaurant has wonderful service and great quality steaks. It's been Chris approved. We enjoyed coffee and cheesecake and didn't leave the restaurant until 10:45! It was so nice to spend time alone with Chris. We put our relationship with our kids first more than we do each other. 

For Christmas, my Dad gifted us with a trip to the Wilderness Resort in Sevierville, TN. My parents, sister, brother in law, and niece, and my family all shared three adjoining rooms. The girls didn't keep each other up all night, and Dallas got to sleep in his own big bed in Chief's room.

 The resort had restaurants so we really didn't need to leave. The water park slides were just as good as Splash Country, but without lines.  Being able to eat lunch, change clothes, and nap in our rooms in the middle of the day was also a plus.  

"...the most satisfying part of a dream is often the journey along the way."

Now it's back to reality- unpacking, washing clothes, 3 yards to mow, renting out a house, packing(!!!!), and finishing up renovations in 21 days. We could definitely use the prayers to remember the reasons why God has us on the journey. We love our family and know that all this chaos is just preparing for the future He has for us! 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hospital Birth Unedited

I was getting pictures together for Lillie-Mae's first birthday and came across the labor pictures that were taken with my first child's birth. Being able to now compare an induced, medicated, hospital birth with a natural home birth, I can honestly say that my home birth was 100% better than the hospital birth.

Without throwing any nurses or doctors under the bus for how my labor went with Dallas, let me say first that our culture is so BACKWARDS on how labor and delivery should be treated for a woman and child. I am not going to to throw a bunch of statistics in about the maternal death rate 100 years ago vs. today, the efficacy in which a hospital birth has improved/declined, or about the types of women who are having home births. All the studies can be done and all the people can read them, but it will not matter unless MOTHERS are honest about how their labor really went.

Was it all you expected? Did you expect anything? 
Did you survive? Did it hurt? 
Were you forced to do things you did not want to do? 
Were you left questioning why something happened? 
Did you feel guilty afterwards? 
Have you anything positive to say about the event? 
Have you even questioned anything that happened in the hospital room that 
changed your life forever

Some things that I have heard from mothers after they've had a child and the moments are fresh on their mind are excuses. "Well, this happened, because this might have happened, so the doctor decided that this should happen. But we have a healthy baby boy/girl and that's all that matters!" Why are we defending birth? I will agree that the health of a newborn child does matter. But at what cost? To me at the most extreme situation it would cost a mother her courage: the ability to do something that frightens someone. Birth can be scary- and after a bad birth experience (maybe having an unexpected c-section, being told your baby could die because of the cord around it's neck, having your baby sucked out because a machine says that it's heart rate is dropping) what mother is willing to say that having a child, a blessing, come into her life was in any way bad. 

These are the pictures you won't see on Facebook, but they are real. Unedited- no making the newborn into a creamy white when they are really splotchy red from crying their lungs out. No lighting was edited- fluorescents are really the opposite of peaceful.

"Could you imagine taking a baby cub away from a Momma bear? Then why is it okay to take a human's child from her for unnecessary interventions immediately following birth?" 

Vernix being rubbed off

Being suctioned- traveling through the birth canal naturally removes fluid. 

See how he is naturally turning to the side with his mouth open.
Any guesses for what he is looking for? No, it's not a bottle, but that was 
still his first form of nourishment. No colostrum or comfort from nursing. 

Having footprints done. I did Lillie-Mae's quite some time after her birth,
 when they were still cute and tiny. 

Being weighed- why can it not wait? 

Pretty sure if Dallas could talk, he would be saying, "Mommy!" 

I don't know exactly how long he was away from me, but it was too long and unnecessary. Any assessment of baby can be done beside the mother. Unfortunately, hospitals are at a time of importance being placed more on liability rather than letting something so natural just take its course. 

I think we are both thinking, "Finally!" I remember just talking to him like no one else was in the room. Telling him how beautiful his eyes were and how good it felt to hold him. Wanting so badly to unwrap him, but not knowing if I was allowed to. I think I snuck an arm out and was able to count five fingers on one hand before a nurse told me I really should keep him tucked tight. 

To see the other side of what birth could be like, please read Lillie-Mae's home birth story
I like to think that I learned  a lot from the first time around. 
Unfortunately, Dallas was my guinea pig. But I only think that
 I am the one left with the scars of his birth's memories. 


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Living with Grace

           "He was a struggling salesman, rising early each morning to go from one proverbial closed door to another, attempting to sell a variety of products made by the company he worked for. The days were long and exhausting, and he often had little to show for his efforts- certainly not from lack of trying, just from lack of takers.
           His young, redheaded wife had been only eighteen when they married. And as their family grew, she spent the better part of each day trying to figure out how to make their small living quarters an enjoyable, satisfactory space, given the difficulties of their financial strain. Yet the day came when the strain turned into the kind that can make a girl want to give up- when she went to flip a light switch, and no lights came on. Thinking it was only a mishap in the electrical system, she went to another light source. Again, nothing. Another, nothing. Throughout the house she flipped switches- nothing- confirming what she already knew but didn't want to believe. Their electricity bill hadn't been paid.
            Worse yet, it couldn't be.
            So for the remainder of the day, she did the best she could to take care of her household responsibilities. Even as the lengthening shadows of late afternoon slowly shrouded the kitchen in dim light, she prepared a makeshift dinner, then set it out with care and dignity on their darkened dining room table. A flashlight search uncovered some half-used candles, which she lit to create an elaborate place setting. The scene was gorgeous.
            When her husband arrived, tired and road weary, he found the children seated at the table, smiling and waiting to have dinner with him. They enjoyed their candlelit meal. Had good conversation together. The children especially loved the unique touch of candles at dinner. Thought it was fun. Their home was full of peace and serenity despite the circumstances- circumstances the children didn't even know about.
             Neither did her husband.
             He went straight from the table and collapsed exhausted into bed, beside which she'd lit more candles. She never said a word. It wasn't until the next day, when he arose to get ready for work, that he realized there were no lights. Putting the mental pieces together, he realized what his wife had done- how she'd preserved his dignity, how she'd opted for peace and beauty rather than friction and discord in response to the inconvenience.
             He walked past the bed one more time on his way out the door that morning, just long enough to brush the red wisps of hair from her cheek and whisper, "Thank you" into her ear. Whether she heard or not, he didn't know. But he was too grateful to let the opportunity pass him by. Grateful to be sharing a ome- sharing a life- with a woman committed to being gracious, promoting peace, overlooking shortcomings, providing an environment in which her family could flourish, even when living in less than desirable circumstances.
            And at their fiftieth wedding anniversary, adult children and grandchildren standing at their side, this was the moment he recounted when asked to share his favorite memory from their life together.
            This is the picture of a woman living with grace. 

Had this story been written about my reaction to a similar hypothetical situation that could have happened to me, after the line "And worse yet, {the bill} couldn't {be paid}," you would be reading about how the wife {myself} quickly called her husband at work to complain then raced to her parent's house to sit underneath their working lights. I know this about myself and have set out to change my reactions. According to my husband, "I love hard, and I fight even harder." He admires that in me. It is usually a character trait that God can use for His glory when I put myself aside.

This story should have an impact on every woman- single or married. It shows a modern day example of God's grace. We are no longer under a law that makes us feel shameful and lacking the ability to ever be good enough to earn our salvation. God sent His Son, Jesus. As Priscilla Shirer put it in her book The Resolution for Women, 
"By meeting all the requirements of the law in Himself, 
Jesus ensured that our hope and salvation 
were no longer dependent on the way we tried to meet them. 
Instead of constantly working for His approval, we were just granted it. 
By simply believing  in Him. Having faith in Him. Accepting His gift." 

At this point, you could be thinking, "No one would realize the sacrifice I made in my attitude to show someone else grace." I am going to tell you the cliche response that God knows your heart in every situation. But, think about this redheaded wife again. Do you think that she woke up that morning thinking, "Today is the day that I will show grace to my hardworking husband! I will show grace to my children so that they will behave well and be full of happiness!" I highly doubt it. I presume that the wife was someone who we might call "prayed up". She had it together with God before she flipped on that light switch without a dramatic response of electricity flooding her home. She was able to trust God, show grace to her family, and go about her day because of the memories she had of God showing her grace. If she had looked and recounted the times her husband or children had showed her grace and whether or not they deserved the same treatment in return, then I bet even her story would have been told differently of that day. Maybe she had to constantly recall this scripture from Matther 11 vs. 28-29

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I  will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

There is nothing that reminds me more of how much grace God has shown me
 than to remember our wedding day. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Faith and Fishing

To say that our lives lately have been chaotic could be an understatement. I'm not ready to share a lot of details, but trust me my prayer list for my myself, family, and friends is enough to make anyone weary. In the midst of it, I keep on with "one thing at a time" as Chris reminds me, and God helps me along the way. I seriously do not know how people live their life without the Lord. I can look back when I was making my own decisions, conclusions, and assumptions- I was anxious, unhappy, and unfulfilled! However, right now there are two things that I have to consistently keep in mind, because of God's grace that is not the way for me anymore.
                 1. Don't Worry
           2. Have Faith 

In my last ladies Bible study, we were given a piece of paper before hand that asked us to fill in the sentence: "I am weary because..." Someone must have known I would need the next three lines to fill in my "weariness". I took the time to ponder and had ranted in my head, then I just wanted to cry, and then I made a sincere list. (All while the sweet ladies around me were laughing and sharing about their lives- I just wasn't in that place that night.) I am weary because... I have 2/3 kids to tend to a day; cooking, cleaning; weary of praying for our house to sell; finances; trying to do good, pray for the right things, be a good friend, put others first. The opening sentence from our leader struck me and turned my attitude around "But what strength we have in Him!" After the meeting, I met with a friend over cheese fries and asked, "What is wrong with me? Why can't I just not worry, enjoy where God has placed me, and have faith not in myself but Him?" Her response, "Nothing is wrong with you but you simply just have to 'not worry'." So, I came to this definition for the phrase, Do Not Worry: Don't think about it, don't act on it. {Matthew 6:34 "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."} What is happening today is where your attention should be. Planning for the next day is different than worrying about it- find that balanced ground that works best for you. There is enough "evil" for today! Why bring more troubles into the day by worrying about what is in the future.

Worry and faith go hand in hand. To me, the best scripture to memorize and run through your head at times when your faith is lacking "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." Proverbs 3:5 Simply put, we will not always understand what may be happening around us or what God is asking of us. BUT  it's not our place to understand- we are called to trust... have faith. God must know by now that I'm just silly- I have friends tell me that often enough. I also get in these sarcastic moods when things just aren't going my way, so I mock the situation. For example the other day I woke up worrying about this and that, not having faith in anything but the cup of coffee I was pouring myself, when I started singing, "I just gotta have faith even though I have no faith. Faith is nowhere to be found. But I gotta find it and have it...!" Dallas starts laughing saying, "Mommy that's silly!" So he got his guitar and started singing along. That little jingle has gotten me through balancing the checkbook, paying bills, long days, tough conversations, and my own stubbornness.

One last thing to share- I know I brag on my husband a lot, but he is so often exactly what I need! I sent him this text a couple of weeks ago:
 I know "God is bigger"- I've seen it happen in my life before 
{in miraclous ways}- seems like forever ago. 
And still today in others' lives. 
But I'd really just like for Him to take control for once lately. 
Transparency is what that text is. It is so important to share your heart with your husband! It has done great things in mine and Chris' lives when we are just completely honest. If I had not been the day I sent that text, then most likely I would have festered to the point of resembling an angry firecracker when he walked through the door from work. His response:
We definitely need HIm to show up. 
I know it feels like everything is just on a non-stop course of confusion and chaos.
There is order somewhere, and God will get us through this. 

I can't leave you without sharing some pictures from our night of fishing last evening.

This was always mine and Chris' "spot" when we were dating. We would back
up his 4Runner to the water, about a quarter of a mile on red clay, just so 
we could sit on the tailgate with our feet in the water. 
I secretly dislike that the Nature Trail now starts here, so it can get crowded. 
However, we did find that 2 rambunctious kids can run off other fishers. 

Lillie-Mae is perhaps the happiest baby I have ever met when she is outside. 

 "Daddy, I think I caught something!" 
"Yep, you caught the bottom of the creek." 

Such a big boy. 

My little baby sitting on my baby bump. It's the sweetest thing when the baby 
kicks Lillie-Mae, she will look down and start whacking back at my belly. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hall Bath- Idea Board

I am so excited to finally be working- quickly- on our new house! The plumber and electrician have come and gone. Most demolition is completed. Now I need to find a handy drywall man to fix the holes and sheetrock over the cinderblock basement. Thankfully, I have a wonderful, selfless, project-loving Daddy that happens to love me his grandson enough to help out. Chris has been working right alongside him, and it has been nice to see the two of them building and finishing our new home.

Somehow the first room I am starting with the most overhaul in is the hall bath. The hall bath of our new house will be what guests use when visiting as well as the daily bathroom for the kids. It is a galley style bathroom- a long vanity with double sinks, then a half wall backing the tub/shower and toilet area.

I am thankful for the window in the bathroom. I like light! Our home now has windows in every room, and I cannot stand a room that feels closed in. Some normal, more realistic person may see this bathroom and say, "Throw some paint on it and it's good to go!" However, we have already begun tearing out and making plans for new.

First, the vanity will be a major overhaul. Truly, it will be the focal point of the bathroom (not the shiny white toilet throne.)

Would you think to keep this yellowed, 70's vanity? Well, I see potential! We will be painting this white and distressing to allow a black background to show through. I may even keep the handles, painted of course. And yes, I'm completely serious! 

I happened on a custom granite shop that sells remnant for the price of dirt pretty much. I have seriously gotten black gold dirt for the price that it cost for our countertops. This is an example of what they look like. 

Next up, faucets! There are so many choices in the design world. Here a few tips when searching in the overwhelming selection of faucets online, search by
1. Color
2. Price "Low to High" I have fallen for too many items that are not 1/10 of what I could afford.
3. Pick the first one that makes you say, "Ahhh...!"

For me, this Moen faucet caught my eye in the sea of chrome fixtures. I prefer a single handle faucet, slightly raised with a wide base. This fit the qualifications!

Part of the beadboard has already been torn down. We will be using the leftovers to make it an accent only halfway up the wall. Oh, and it will also be painted white. You may be thinking, "Blah! White!" But, it is so crisp and clean! Exactly what a bathroom needs to be. The top of the walls may or may not be a color. I don't want to do blue. Everyone does blue. Since Chris is an artist of some sort, I'm sure he will have a great suggestion! 

The flooring will be hexagon white tiles with a dark grout. Similar to that in this picture. 

I think I will leave the rest of the details as a surprise at the big reveal of the finished bath! But let's just say, this little bathroom will have tons of details when finished! 

If you wouldn't mind praying for our current house to sell. We know God has the perfect family for our house! He has given us hope along the way, and we are remaining faithful that it will sell in His time! You can view the details in my post about it here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


"So then every one of us shall give account 
of himself to God."
(Romans 14:12)

Back in January, I introduced the concept of character traits (read that post here) and how I was starting to incorporate them into Dallas' daily routine. So far this year we have addressed obedience (1 Corinthians 14:40), punctuality (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and gratefulness (1 Corinthians 4:7). Dallas is very observant of his surroundings and recognizes how others behave and treat one another. Unfortunately, everyone walking the mall or even attending church isn't the best of  an example for the young man he needs to be. I think it is very important for parents to instill the traits they see fit in their children- it starts at home.  

We are starting the month of May off with responsibility (vs. unreliability). The definition given for responsibility: Knowing and doing what God and others are expecting me to do. During the school year, Dallas would leave the house at 7:00 am and be picked up at 12:00. So, we started small with acting on the question "how can you show responsibility?" Dallas got the concept right away, "I can make my bed and help my Daddy." His chores/responsibilities in the beginning were making his bed, brushing his teeth, helping with the laundry, and setting the table. I had bought him a magnet board from a yard sale. I lined his "chores/responsibilities" up on one side, and he was responsible for placing a smiley face magnet when he completed a task for the day. On Monday, we would count the smileys and he would get a penny for every task he remembered to mark. This gave him the opportunity to earn 50¢ a week! He was proud of the money he earned. Now that school is out,, he doesn't have homework, school functions, or as much time spent away from home. This means more chores! Unfortunately, Dallas wasn't as excited about this as I was. I was only going to add two things to his chart: collect the garbage and feed our pets. After doing one chore, at 7:00 am Dallas decided that he was done for the day, "I'm soooo tired of doing chores..." I let him follow me around, helping with Mommy's chores to see which list of responsibilities he enjoyed more. Suddenly, doing the garbage and feeding the pets wasn't too much trouble for him. Imagine that! Now, my "Bible story" know it all son just had to know where in the Bible it said that we had to do chores. I asked him to tell me the story of Adam in the Garden from Genesis. He still didn't see a connection. So, I read him Genesis 2:15
"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden
to work it and take care of it." 

Instead of pruning trees, we have toilets to clean! 

We have also been talking about the responsibility we have to keep our bodies well. I am teaching him young that taking vitamins, brushing our teeth, and exercising are good daily habits. He really likes the exercise part! For now, I am letting him "make up" exercises, but watch to make sure he is not doing something that could be hurtful. Here, he is learning how to do a proper push-up. He could use a little more practice... 

I don't know if this has ever happened to anyone else, but I will be driving down the road and hear, "I'm thirsty. I have to go to the bathroom. I don't have my Cubbies bag for church." Or, my favorite moment: as we were pulling up to a portrait studio for family pictures, "I only have one shoe." As a mom of two, almost three, it gets hard for me to remember the responsibility I have to pack everything and address everyone's needs before we leave the house. Therefore, I am passing the stick to Dallas. He is responsible for a tidy appearance and two of the same shoes before he leaves the house. Any drink or snack he needs for the car ride is also his responsibility. 

I know it may seem from this one isolated post that all Dallas does is work all day, but I can assure you that he addresses his responsibilities as soon as his feet hit the floor of a morning to head outside and ride his bike or "save the worms".  But I am pretty certain that his favorite part of learning responsibility is reaping the benefits. 

Buying a "Captain America" costume with his responsibility money he earned. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Depressed... Redeemed!

"... for the joy of the LORD is your strength." 
Nehemiah 8:10

You can't tell me that Satan doesn't know dates and use them against us. For the past week I have been, without lack of a better word, struggling. In a place of drifting, where one day blends into the other. I have not been able to soak in the joy of the greenness of spring, have rejoiced in the gloomy rainy days that seem to know exactly how to reflect my current state of mind. I have known that I should write a blog post on depression for a couple of weeks. Scripture, others' testimonies, memories of my own struggles, have all shown themselves to me throughout the days. Yet, I have struggled with what to say... Should I just give a personal story? Glamorize depression into something that can be overcome in 'x' amount of time? Make it seem like a rite of passage for all that doesn't need to be worked through, yet will work itself out? My only answer... Is that I can only write what is real... my truth... my unknown struggle. 

Two years ago this week (a date that Satan for sure knows!), I heard a sermon that changed me. Dr. Craig Edwards came to speak on a Tuesday night during a Bible Conference at my church, Parkway Baptist Temple. Click here to listen to that sermon.  He started the sermon describing the depression that had come into his life through health issues. I knew in that moment that depression was what had reared it's ugly head in my life. I bought Dr. Edwards book, "What Christians Need to Know about Depression", and wrote him a message through Facebook seeking his encouragement. I first shared with him, 
"I believe that depression started in me when my husband committed suicide..."
"Since his death, God has provided more than enough for me and my son. 
I am now engaged to a man that I know God made just for me. 
I enjoy being a mother and serving the Lord. 
In the midst of my blessings, I feel guilty, sad, angry, 
and all kinds of emotions that I just couldn't name. 
I have never thought to sum it up with 'depression'. It is a scary word for me to say..." 

I would like to say that I headed full force into my depression with a spear- diving into God's Word, choosing to find joy, putting negative thoughts behind me, seeing myself as a Child of God. However, I sunk  deeper into depression. We all hear the cliche statements on commercials or tv shows; "I was in a pit of darkness... I'm just so sad... This is never going to end..." But, I would like to take you deeper into my own experience so you might just maybe understand that depression is not something that someone voluntarily goes into. It is an attack on your mind- and for the Christian, it's main goal is to steal your joy and God's glory from your life. 

To describe my "pit of darkness" I will take you through a normal day with depression for me. 
It found me early in the morning before I would be able to form any thoughts for the day. I would open my eyes to the morning sun, but I would physically be in a fog. The sun seemed gray, the morning fog seemed morose- what purpose did I have to get out of bed. Then my question would be answered with a three year old boy, barreling into my bedroom ready to start his day with a smile on his face. With a groan from me, I would get him ready and take him to a half day preschool. Once home, I would make plans to clean the house, go somewhere for the day to get out, call a friend, have an uninterrupted Bible study. But, before I knew it my thought-out plans had taken me back to my bed where I would stare at the ceiling, drift in and out of sleep, watch a morning talk show, then set an alarm for 11:35, the absolute last minute that I could stay in bed before having to go get Dallas from school. I would make more plans to get ready (shower, put make up on, pick out real clothes to wear), so that I could have a fun day out with Dallas. More than likely, I would only accomplish getting from the bed back to the car. Once at my car, I many times thought how lazy I was for not washing my dirty car. I would pick Dallas up, come home and make him lunch- I didn't usually see a point in eating. We would play, I would clean some, then he would take a nap. Once again, I would make plans in my head to do something, anything, while he rested. But, my bed would always seem to be the best place for me to go.

At this point, you may be thinking, "That sounds like the worst day ever... Why didn't she just read her Bible and get some encouragement... What kind of mother only tends to a child's needs, putting her feelings above theirs...?" My only answer is, I don't know... I felt so guilty when I would have days like this. I would have the best of intentions to start the next day new, fresh, and happy. But I just couldn't.

When Chris caught on to my behavior, he tried to help. But, it got hard for him to swallow someone's negativity- I took everything out on him. He came to me one day with honesty in his eyes, (that man has never lied to me) and said, "I will not marry you unless you get help. This is bigger than you, but I know that it will pass for you." I was so mad. What did he want to do send me to a mental hospital (at times that sounded like luxury- no commitments, other sad people, and medication to numb the pain). I prayed about God sending a counselor into my life that would help me in the ways that I did not know I needed help. I was led to the Center for Hope in Fort Oglethorpe, and a wonderful wiser woman that brought me down to reality in our one hour meetings. She started by asking Why are you here, "My fiance told me I had to come..." What do you want to accomplish by talking with me, "I want you to tell me why I fell so hopeless and lost and how in the world to get out from underneath this anxiety." Ok, let's start by going back to the beginning... 

I do believe that the situations you face as an adolescent and the environments that you are brought up in do shape the person that you become. I do not believe that your childhood- good or bad- can be an excuse for bad in your life. However, what I had to do was to look at the choices that I had made early on. To sum it up, I have looked for love in all the wrong places, depended on guys for my happiness, kept the company of bad friends, became a teen mom, lost a scholarship to the University of Georgia, lost my "true love" (now my husband- God is good!), been through physically abusive relationships, and blamed everyone without looking to the choices I made. I wrote "forgiveness" letters to those that I felt had wronged me, and a very very long letter of forgiveness to myself. God did not like that I wasn't living for Him! I missed out on a lot and withstood too many troubles that could have been avoided had I chose right instead of wrong. All this, piled up- I am naturally an easy going person that is able to say "It's okay, I'm good!" without really thinking about how an event has impacted me. My counselor would continuously remind me that what I was going through was the "pain to end the pain". We are humans- mind, body, and spirit. Each of those areas need to be healthy!

Early on, I let her know that I did not want a prescription to put a block on the emotions I was feeling, even if it was only for a short period of time. Her prescription: vitamin D- I would go outside every day to sit in the sun; exercise- even if it was just walking, I was releasing "happy" endorphins; making a conscious effort to replace negative thoughts (of others, myself, circumstances); choosing daily to get in God's word; making my bed, getting ready for the day, then shutting my bedroom door and not laying around; eating a well balanced diet.

The road to healing was not short. I kept thinking I would wake up and feel so happy! When I wouldn't, my life would still go on (sometimes much to my dismay). I found that church and my church family were the best thing for me. Probably 1% of the people around me knew that I was actually struggling, but God always knew when to send encouragement my way. I would get texts from friends saying they were praying for me to have a "joyful day". On April 13, 2012- a year after coming to the realization that the definition of my emotions was depression- I message Dr. Craig Edwards again and was able to say,
" I am studying Jonah, I realize that I allowed God to calm the storms
all around me in my life, but never the storms in my heart.
Never ever did I believe that there was relief from the darkness and hopelessness
that I felt. Almost a year later, I can say
that I am thankful for the storms that God allowed in my life
and even the ones that I initiated...
I have allowed God to "shake me up" to get all the bad out and refill my cup.
Your book was a major stepping stone in my life to seek counseling 
and say that I was depressed."

Whitney Gallaway, presented a message to the college and career ladies at Parkway one Wednesday night. I had previously heard her speak the same message, but this time she went further. Jonah was running from what God called him to do, to go to Nineveh and preach to the lost nation (Jonah 1:2). For me, running from things in my life had caused me my happiness and led to depression. Without that whale swallowing up Jonah, he would have drowned (vs. 17). Depression was my whale. Jonah then chose to cry out to the Lord after three days and three nights in the belly, and God showed him mercy (Jonah 2:1-2).
"O give thanks unto the LORD ; for He is good; for his mercy endureth forever." 
Psalm 136:1

I  let depression make me feel that I was weak and incapable, guilty and unworthy, unneeded and unwanted. And honestly, those things are true! BUT through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ- my sins are forgiven! My life has purpose- for God's glory. Satan may be able to come to me for a season, but through this trial of depression, I have been strengthened not just in mind but in spirit and my faith. Satan can attack you at your STRONGEST point(s). My joy is my strength! And I cannot let Satan try to rob me of that.

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself
and take up his cross daily, and follow me." 
Luke 9:23

"... weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Psalm 130:5

"(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty
through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself
against the knowledge of God,
and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" 
2 Corinthians 10:4-5

*I would encourage everyone, going through the trial of depression, who knows someone with depression, who could be an encourager someday to someone with depression, to buy Dr. Craig Edwards book, "What Christians Need to Know About Depression". You can purchase the book here for only $7 from his home church, Mayberry Baptist in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. If you are not able to purchase the book, I will gladly buy it for you. It is that important to me for you to read. 

I thank God for the blessings in my life!

Monday, March 4, 2013


This post was written on the night we found out we were expecting Baby Number 3!

Tonight, we enjoyed the Valentine's Banquet at church. It was so great to be surrounded by other couples and for the theme of the night to be "love".  Surprisingly, the most exciting part of our night was not winning the "Couple who has been married the least amount of time" box of chocolates (1 year, 3 months, and 11 days). The excitement came when I told Chris we should probably get a pregnancy test to see if I was pregnant... WHAT???? To be honest, three weeks ago I knew I was pregnant. And yes, a split second after using the test, a bright blue + sign showed up. Pregnant!

Meanwhile, Chris is tending to a screaming Lillie-Mae: putting diaper cream on her very bad diaper rash, lotion on her eczema, and new pajamas. She had been at my parents house for the banquet and fallen asleep at 7:30, so at 9:00 when we arrived home with her she was confused and ready to be left alone to sleep. I left the test on the kids' bathroom sink where he would see it after leaving her room... I stood with my back to him while what seemed like forever. He finally moved and said, "That's exciting!" I gave him the thumbs up and went into my bedroom with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes (50% joy and 50% fear).

After my precious baby girl was quietly sleeping, Chris came and got me and said again, "This is so exciting!" To which my response continued to be, "Why is this so exciting? Why are you so excited? What about having another baby makes you excited?" All the while, my heart is truly joyful, but I needed my husband, my rock, to calm some fears for just a second. His response to my uncertainty, "Because I trust God more than I trust myself. I am excited that God trusts me with another baby when I barely feel like I should be trusted with Lillie-Mae. God has lined all of this up and His, what seems to us crazy plan, is all His plan." He redirected me to the positive and I was able to see how exciting it would be for Lil' Mae to have a baby brother or sister. She loves babies already! Dallas is the BEST big brother. His face lights up when he is playing with his little sister and he makes it his greatest responsibility to always care for her. Now he will have two babies to love! Then, the fear again, "What about my baby and my baby-baby? Do I have room for a baby-baby-baby {in my heart}?"

Now, we both had the common anxiety of telling people that we are expecting again. You see, I feel like in our culture you have 2.5 kids, two to three years apart. Well, we have exceeded the limit and rushed the deadline with 3 kids and the youngest being a year apart in age. So, we decided for it to be an April's Fool Joke! Less pressure, more fun, a win-win for everyone! People could believe we were "for real" or think it was just a silly joke. No harm done.

Chris came in as I was writing this post and said, "Remember the hour that Lillie-Mae was crying today  {instead of napping} and you felt overwhelmed because you were not able to get anything done in that hour?" Yes... "Well, from now on your mindframe needs to be thankful for the hour/s that you are able to get things done, because you will soon have a 5 year old, 1 year old, and Newborn to care for. I don't care what 'gets done', make it your priority to make them first and not to be overwhelmed." What a man to say something like that. I am truly thankful to his honesty that I need.

So, in short I am praying: that I can direct my thoughts positively; I will keep myself, baby, and family healthy; and that I trust God more than I trust myself.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mothers' Sayings

"The wise woman builds her house, but with 
her own hands the foolish one
tears hers down." Proverbs 14:1

Every day, I hear my Mothers' voice. My biological Momma, Nana, and Mamaw have through my upbringing, shared little tidbits of information. For my Momma, she would repeat these things to me daily. Nana, would sit me down and have "a talking" with me that always ended with, "Now, you know your Nana loves you and I'm usually not wrong about these things." Mamaw would mostly say things under her breath- I would have to listen carefully. But, I learned most life lessons from watching these women work and love throughout their lives.

"Don't ever go hungry without coming here first." 

I am so thankful that my Mamaw is still alive. Her memory is not anything like it used to be- she still believes that I am the young mother to Dallas and that he is crawling around calling her "Maw". She will be 90 years old this June, and I can only imagine what her life has seen. I had the utmost admiration for her growing up- I loved going to the church to help her cook for the homeless. The sign from the road read, "Free Meal to Anyone in Need". It was my job to tally the people that came in and to stir the pots. At seven years old, I was saved. From that point on, Mamaw would have me go into the the dining room with the needy and pray. Every 30 minutes, I would go in there and ask a prayer over their food. "Don't do that rote prayer you said when you were little. And make sure you say Amen," she would remind me. Mamaw also headed up a food pantry and clothes closet for "any and everyone in need". After filling a cardboard box with cereal, flour, canned milk, and canned goods, she would tell them, "Don't ever go hungry without coming here first." As she locked up the steel door I heard the firm command, "You have to treat everyone equal- you never know when you will end up without anything." I could never imagine Mamaw and Papaw being poor. Papaw worked hard up until his very last days. But, she would remind me that growing up, she was embarrassed that she only had "peanut butter crackers" instead of a ham biscuit in her lunch pail. She ate oatmeal for breakfast, used an outhouse, washed her clothes by hand, and got an orange in her stocking every year at Christmas. She knew what it was like to not have as much, and she knew how to work hard. Mamaw was the first person I told that I was pregnant. Her response, "Well, that's alright. It's going to be okay. Babies are a blessing, and you're going to have one for a reason." In her older years (I wasn't around for the younger ones), Mamaw did not tell many people what she was going to do for the day, "If you don't tell anyone your plans, they can't tell you 'No'". She was always going. And as hard as it is to remember her saying, "If you quit moving, you'll just die," I know that she has lived and led a beautiful life! 

"You shouldn't go should'n"

I am fortunate to also still have my Nana around. According to her, she "still isn't old" at 85 years young. She is the most caring, level-headed woman that I know. I have came to her with my doubts and fears since a very young age. She has seen me through childhood friendships lost, bad school grades, teen pregnancy, too many of the "not good enough boys" I dated, and motherhood. Through her, I have seen her be a devoted wife and mother. Her advice may have seemed outdated, but I would always find myself following her recommendations. Many a time she has been upset with me worrying over the past, "You shouldn't go 'should'n over something you can't change." My favorite thing about my Nana is her sense of humor. She gets "tickled" quite often. It's hard to say what will set her off, but if she's not laughing then something isn't right. Many a time I have walked through "sticky situations" with her, and her final comment would usually be, "Well, if we didn't get arrested, then we must have done something right!" If I am ever in need of love and a lipstick kiss, I can count on my Nana. "Just a little Coca Cola won't hurt" and "A little sugar will settle your stomach"- her ways of enjoying the little things in life. 

"Be happy, and they will be happy." 

My Momma... I think I fought against her up until the point that I became a mother myself. It's hard to understand the sacrifices they make and the things a mother does out of love until you find yourself looking back in your memory vault to see how she handled a situation. Then, turn and do the same with my own children. My Momma is a worker- she loves to be outside and do for others. I used to sit in the truck on the steepest of hills watching her dig a ditch in the Georgia summer heat. I watched from the window as she mowed, pulled weeds, planted flowers and then went next door to my Mamaw's and did the same in her yard (if Mamaw let her). "Always plant pansies for color in winter," was her advice. On sunny, cold, winter days, Momma would throw open the front door, pull up all the blinds and lay outside on the patio in a bikini- soaking up every bit of Vitamin D that she could. She knows how to live!  
I have probably went to my Momma for parenting advice 1000x's of times. I don't remember her raising me as a baby, but I think that I turned out alright. Therefore, I trust her wisdom. When frustrated with Lillie-Mae not falling asleep when rocking her, "Lay your baby down to sleep and she will sleep." And she was right! Lillie-Mae would talk, toss and turn, spit out her paci, and then just fall asleep. "I always just fed y'all when you seemed hungry." No 'by the clock' feedings according to her. My favorite advice, "Be happy and they will be happy." Dallas' first days were started with a smiling, singing Mommy even though I didn't always feel up to the task. 
Unfortunately, I have had my fair share of sickness starting when I was a child. After moving out, I would lay on the couch, delirious from high fevers, and my Momma would say "Go.To.The.Doctor." I would, and I would get better for a little bit. Then, I just "took my health into my own hands" and started trying every natural remedy to rid and ward off sickness. Now, with a built up immunity and Silver Shield at hand, I have my own ways. However, my Momma will stop by at will with a flashlight at hand, ready to look down my throat or in my ears to give her judgement of my condition. 
I don't have many "deep" conversations with my Momma, but I can always count on her to find humor in the situation. "Some people, you have to imagine they are 14. Then, you can just accept their ways." And she always likes to remind me, "Your middle name is Louise for a reason." Somedays it's to compliment and most days it comes with a head shake and stern smile. 

I am so blessed to have had these women as my "Mothers" growing up! I love them all, and I believe that I have a piece of each of them in my personality. I hope I stay witty like my Nana, strong like my Mamaw, and beautiful like my Momma.